Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Preference for Perennials, and Two Potential Problems

That cottage garden look?  I love it.  I try to remind myself of that fact, and of how I've worked to recreate it in my own garden beds when I am sidetracked elsewhere by the visual impact of a massed single plant or the particularly effective use of negative space in a garden.

Cottage gardens are more old fashioned in appearance, and represent samplers of scattered plantings.  When in full bloom they are spectacular.  Naturally, I've complicated matters here by using lots of passalongs in concert with mostly native perennial plants.  As opposed to an abundance of seasonally coordinated annuals, a problem with perennials in the cottage garden (if you can call it that) is they rarely all bloom at the same time.

As a matter of fact, native perennials (and reseeding annuals) have evolved to fill a particular niche timewise as well as microclimate wise.  I suppose if they did all bloom together they'd be competing for pollinators and competition dodged is competition won when it comes to surviving in the Texas countryside.  I respect that.

Regardless, occasionally when I squint and angle the camera just so, I catch a shot that captures as close to a cottage garden look as my beds usually provide. No pull out all the stops, everything in bloom at one time showstoppers here, but more typically two things in bloom together.  Like so.

And so:

Like this:

Or this:

And here, my current favorite, which appeals to me more as a matter of focus than variety but who cares, because look:  Profusion, suggested.

And to wrap things up today, a glimpse not at flowers but at two foliage plants I love, which also represent where I can get into my own particular version of garden troubles.

This little beauty is Mimosa pudica, or sensitive plant.  The leaves fold up as a protective measure at the slightest touch.  The novelty of that aside, I love the way it looks and the fact it creeps along just above ground level, quietly providing a gorgeous green backdrop underneath other showier plants.

And how could this be a problem?  Mimosa pudica is categorized as an invasive plant.  By all rights I should be removing this everywhere I find it.  But I don't. I just can't make myself take it out. This plant might go haywire in other parts of the country but in my garden there are two or three smallish specimens that come back each spring.  They don't seem to be spreading though I kind of wish they would.  So I resolve to keep an eye on them and promise myself if they show any signs of taking over I'll yank them right out. 

And speaking of yanking something right out.  See this?  You might recognize this native,

by the characteristic white underside of the leaf.  Vitis mustangesis, or Mustang grape.  My mother-in-law made amazing mustang grape jelly every year and so I was excited when I first realized we had some growing in our own back yard.  But while hers was neatly trained and trellised on a split rail garden fence constructed by my father in law, ours is bird sown and grows like this:

Which would be fine if it stayed on the ground, but these vines grow at a phenomenal rate and would much rather ninja-kudzu themselves up into and over every shrub, bush and tree.  Honestly, as I stood in the midst of it to snap this photo I was alarmed at what felt like a tendril experimentally wrapping itself around my ankle.

I'm determined to find some way to tame these vines in our spaces as my in laws did, so eventually we might get as much a chance at the grapes as the birds and squirrels do.  Even if we never got a single jar of grape jam, I am a total sucker for these leaves.  I think they are gorgeous, green side up or white side under.  And while I dither about as to how best to tame them, season after season they get away from me and up into our trees, where they compete vigorously for sunlight and often shade out entire sections of the smaller trees.  When it comes to the question of who's in charge around here, I'm afraid the answer in this case is, The Vines!


Tina said...

I love your "just so" photos. While you're correct that in Texas, the cottage garden doesn't usually have plants which bloom all at once, I still love that look. I'm entranced by the minimalist desert garden, impressed with the hedged, formal garden, but I always return to the cottage garden as my favorite style.

I also have some mustang grape, but thankfully, only in one spot,that I can keep an eye on. I prune in 4-6 time a year.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: With my recurrent preference for that cottage garden look, I maintain that I am simply old-fashioned. My daughter suggests it is even more simple: I am OLD.

As to the grapes, I'm wondering if I could move it out front where the deer might be enlisted in helping keep it "cropped", though they aren't usually helpful with their munching preferences that way. Research continues.

Cat said...

Your garden looks like a happy mix of what you love and for me, that's what makes a happy gardener. I'm curious where you found the little mimosa plant? While on a garden tour a couple weeks ago I saw it near a pond in a dappled light setting and it was so sweet. I'd be willing to try it too if I could put my hands on one.

My friend passed along some white yarrow and in it was a morning glory volunteer. Ive found three little volunteers this spring in my garden and I haven't quite decided what to do with them just yet...they scare me a bit.

TexasDeb said...

The mimosa pudica just "is" in my garden beds. I'm not sure they are for sale locally as they are categorized as invasive. Tell you what - I'll keep an eye out for seeds and let you know if I can propagate it successfully? My invader can be your invader...

And speaking of invaders, the native bindweed morning glory vines reseed prolifically and become impossible in about three seconds (don't ask me how I know this!). The "garden variety" glories (in my experience) are much easier to pull out if you get them where you don't want them. Maybe yours are of the friendly variety? And yay! Yarrow!

Cat said...

Yay, for passalong plants! I'd love it if you'd give propagation a try with the mimosa pudica.

Well, hmmm, I'm guessing the morning glory might be the friendly one because it didn't take over my garden last summer. Hopefully this is the case...I'll scout for more volunteers and if they appear out of control will start pulling immediately.

Debra said...

I just discovered the sensitive plant this year as I was walking along the local creek. I like a plant that does tricks. What fun. If it is invasive it doesn't seem too thuggish.

One of my neighbours snips the mustang grapes when they are still green to pickle for one of the local chefs. The mustang grapes here at the creek grow in deep deep shade up the trees. The vines don't seem to girdle or harm the trees. I was surprised at just how shade tolerant they are and this year looks like it will be a bumper crop.

Is a cottage garden old fashioned? I like to think of them as classics. =)

Bob said...

My weed/plant that gets a pass from me is the pink wood sorrel. I pull out every one of the yellow that I find as it just looks ugly to me. The pink, so pretty.

I have a grape vine in the wrong place in my garden and I have tried to kill it for years now. I have dug it up almost a foot deep and it came back. I wiped every leaf with shrub killing poison and here it comes back. I'm beginning to think it can't be killed.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: The grapes don't kill mature trees certainly but I have some smaller understory stuff that can easily get overwhelmed. Unfortunately for me the vines out back (so far at least) seem to fruit only at their farthest reaches up in the canopy. I'm certain the birds and squirrels enjoy them.

"Classic", That is perfect!

TexasDeb said...

Bob: I'll admit I'm a fan of the yellow sorrel, but I don't really have any of the pink here. I love the leaves as much as the flowers and there's one type I see here that stays very small and has purple tones in the leaves. I need to start seeing if I can collect seed and encourage more of those!

Grape vines are like Bermuda Grass and don't ever give up or totally go away I guess. I figure it is better to try and tame mine rather than try to eradicate it. I'll save that energy for poison ivy.

PS - Thanks for the ID long ago on that large/tall form of Cosmos. I love mine though I have to pull out lots of volunteers!

pbrenner said...

I just found your blog (popped over from Rock-Oak-Deer), and I am really enjoying it! I am on 7 acres in the hill country (between Blanco and Wimberley), and have been trying to tame a small part of my wilderness :-) The grape vines are really something around here - they are like a medusa, hack one down and a dozen more spring back. I have to admit that where I've cut them down in a few areas, the new growth is very attractive. And I'm delighted to know what my little pinkish/purple fuzz balls are (Mimosa pudica). I have a few on the edges of my 'lawn' (a little bit of grass with lots of weeds, lol). It is so cute that I don't have the heart to get rid of it.


TexasDeb said...

Patty: Welcome! Mimosa pudica is not particularly aggressive in my beds and it has been growing there for years. I feel you are safe to let it go and grow and just keep an eye on it.

The grape vines are another story of course, and I've heard plenty of folks say it is impossible to eradicate.I think I'll just keep trying to control where it goes as best I can (and see if there are good recipes to use the leaves?). I can be pretty stubborn too!